"Man, sorry I'm late... the Babe (that's how everyone calls his wife, even him) had to work a few more hours, and we had no-one that could look after the baby (they have a seven month old girl), so i had to wait until she came back, so i could nip out and meet you. Should've seen the look on her face... I'm gonna get an earful when I get home later..."
Pete is one of my best friends, and all around good guy, who, much like maybe ninety percent or more of the world's population, just can't seem to get a break.
I welcome him to the table where I'm sitting, and say " No worries, Pete. You want anything? Only I'm going to get me a beer, so..."
Secretly, I was maybe kind of hoping that he would volunteer to buy me a beer; I'm a bit short on cash, and every little extra helps.
Shameful though it may be to abuse your friends, i had little to no alternative left.
Besides, when life so chooses to be that way, one can always be generous in that time, i suppose.
"No, no", he says. "I'm good. But you... you're maybe just a tad... how shall i put this... tipsy? What have you had to drink?", he asked me, while he rolled a cigarette.
Filthy habit people have, and always next to me.
"Oh, this and that, you know.", and my speech was getting a bit slurred. "This and that", I emphasized.
"Besides, and this is just so brilliant, I saw a girl with a t-shirt that said "The liver is evil and must be punished"!
We laughed, and it was good to hear our laughter. There is something quite magical in laughter that echoes deep in your souls, and makes us believe that things aren't that bad.
And makes us want things to be better still.
"Ah well, screw it, they don't even have beer here. Proper beer, that is.", I complained.
"They only have what a friend of mine superbly calls "Water from Leça do Balio".
"What. Are. You. Talking. About?", he asked, puzzled.
"Super Bock", i answered.
"Oh, ok. So... how are you these days?", he inquired. "You ok?"
"Heh. No. Yes. I mean... sort of. I've been thinking."
And no, this is not cause for celebration, nor was it the first time it happened.
"Thinking about what?", Pete asks. "About the world we live in and life in general?
"That's your thing, you know? You always think too much... or too little, i can't tell anymore."
Someone much wiser than I am once wrote that "Most men would rather deny a harsh truth than face it".
But not me. Not me.
"I've been thinking about when did i become such a horrible person.", I said.
"And why do you think like that? By the way, I'm gonna get a... how do you call it? Water from...?"
"Water from Leça do Balio, bro. Get me one? Cheers."
So much for pride.
A few minutes later, he returned with two bottles of horse's piss those fools call "Beer".
"To us?", i proposed.
"To us", he replied.
"Shit, of course you can't even know what it tastes like, if you drink it all down on two or three gulps. You stupid bastard.
"Bull", I burped. "Can't a guy be thirsty? But seriously, now, what i just told you... I've done some serious thinking, and I know now that it wasn't Claudia, the summer girl that made me feel like a child, or even Ana, who made me feel so extraordinary."
"No, it was Sara", I said finishing the rest of the beer.
"Sara... your ex-Sara? That Sara? Geez, how long ago was that?"
Yep, my ex-Sara.
"Not that long ago, apparently", he concluded.
"Understand", I asked him while I contemplated asking for another beer. "You know full well how my other stories played out."
"With Claudia and Ana? Sure.", he said, rolling the thousandth cigarette.
"Yes, them... you know what I felt for them... and how that love near crushed me. And I now ask, after feeling so strongly for someone, how can you ever hope to feel those kinds of feelings ever again for anyone else? Especially, if you consider the less than auspicious circumstances under which Sara and me met.."
"I was scared, I admit it. Hell, I was more than scared, I was frightened out of my wits. What she ever saw in me I guess I'll never know... But Sara, right? That woman, that goddess, who could have anyone she wanted... wanted me."
"Yes, I know...", he said, eyes closed. "That Bondage party... my God, sometimes I still have nightmares..."
"Exactly", I said, way too loud.
"Why me? Well, whatever, the thing is tat we hooked up.... because it was she who came after me, it was she who wanted me, it was even she who asked ME to be HER boyfriend. Now, how fucked up is that?"
"And so once more I ask : after the other two, how could I ever like her?"
"The answer is so simple it hurts. I couldn't. I wasn't able to."
"I think there was nothing more to give, simply put. And so, in time, we grew apart. I (the irony of this kills me...) became cold and distant while I had Wonder bloody Woman next to me. And, of course, when you treat someone the wrong way, and you ignore her, and for however much that person may love you, one day she'll see the light and dump you, right?
"Right", you agreed. "And was that what happened?"
"Shit, yeah, and I fully deserve it."
"And that is why you think you're such an awful person."
By reflex, I picked up the bottle and took it to my lips just to find it empty. His, too, was empty, and he asked me if i wanted another.
"Well", i said a bit shyly " it's not that i don't want, but... er... you know, I'm maybe kinda broke?
"No worries, man, it's on me. One?"
I nodded slightly in agreement.
He came back to the table, and gave me my beer, and said to me, "Now drink that shit in two goes, and you'll see the back of my hand", and with this we laughed a bit more.
I took the bottle once more and greedily put it to my lips, but this time, i let only a small amount of beer in my mouth.
Ah, sweet and cool nectar... you are one of life's true and undenied pleasures, I thought, as slowly I savoured the golden liquid in my mouth.
"I will tell you why I'm such a horrible person, but first I will tell you something that nearly no-one knows."
I beckoned him closer, and we huddled together in the table.
"About a week or two before Sara broke up with me, we weren't really seeing each other at the time. And this absence of her in my life is what ultimately led me to falling in love with her. Ironic, I know."
"And every day, every minute, every goddamn second I spent without her, hurt like you couldn't believe. She wouldn't answer her cell, or return my text messages. It was hard."
I drank a bit more, and I thought that never a Super Bock had tastes this good to me.
"So after all that time, one day she meets me at the record store. And believe me, seeing her, and not being able to touch her? That was sheer hell."
"I was at the counter, and she came up to me. You know me, man, I'm always making jokes, an to try and lighten the mood, i played her up a bit."
I took a long sip of beer.
For a while I said nothing.
"And...?", you asked impatiently.
"And I asked her, you know, in a very playful way if there was any way that I could be of service to her."
Another pause for dramatic effect.
"And...?", you inquired again.
"And she took my hand to hers, and said 'I want you'."
"Right then and there? I knew, Pete, i knew that nothing could ever take her away from me."
"How naive was I? Very."
"So what went wrong?", you ask.
"Hell, to this day I have no idea, but a few hours later she finally broke up with me. And I can't really say I blame her."
"So... is that it, is that the reason?"
"No, of course not", I said.
"Of course not. It's because of everything that came afterwards. Because of everyone that came after her. And because of the fact that I reasoned that if i got hurt, then that gave me the right to give some of that hurt back."
"Do you remember the kind of person I became, Pete?"
I felt you struggle inside, I could see you fighting for the right words.
"Say what you have to say."
After a while, "Ok. You became someone... more complicated. Harder to like. But never awful."
"An awful person", I insisted.
You put your hands on my shoulders and said "Do you think you still are what you say you are? Because I don't think you do, not anymore. And that's what matters, my friend. I look at you and I see a finer person, and maybe even wiser."
"You just gotta let it go, once and for all."
"An awful person", I repeated once more.
"Is that what you want for yourself? Is that what you are going to convince yourself that you are? Because it's your choice. And yours alone."
"Think on that, while I'm going to get one more for us."
"My choice alone", I finally agreed.
"Excellent", you said, smiling. "I'll drink to that!"
"Cheers", I saluted.
"Like the naked leads the blind
i know i'm selfish, i'm unkind.
Sucker love, i always find
Someone to bruise and leave behind..."
Placebo, Every me Every you.